Why Having a Healthy, Active CEO Is Essential for Workplace Wellbeing?

The importance of employee health cannot be overstated and is now more evident since the recent Covid pandemic. Having physically and mentally healthy employees not only benefits their wellbeing but also creates a positive, effective work environment that supports the success and resilience of the business. Employee health and productivity truly go hand in hand, as a healthy individual is much more likely to be motivated, creative, and efficient.

While implementing a wellbeing initiative is key in supporting the health and wellbeing of employees, there’s another often-overlooked factor that’s equally important, having a healthy, active CEO. How do the habits of the CEO affect the health of the employees? That’s exactly what we’ll be discussing in this article. First, let’s go over some basics.

Why Health and Wellbeing in The Workplace Are Important?

Employees who implement healthy habits are more productive in the workplace. In one study involving nearly 20,000 workers, researchers found that employees who ate healthily and exercised regularly demonstrated better job performance (1). Key findings from the study include (2):

  • Employees with unhealthy diets were 66 % more likely to report decreased productivity
  • Employees who had difficulty exercising during the day were 96 % more likely to report decreased productivity
  • Employees who rarely ate fruits and vegetables at work were 93 % more likely to report decreased productivity
  • Smokers were 28 % more likely to report decreased productivity
  • Those who didn’t believe their workplace would support them in becoming healthier were more likely to report a decrease in productivity

These findings are monumental, demonstrating just how important it is for employees to practice healthy habits. In addition to reduced productivity, living an unhealthy lifestyle can result in increased absenteeism, reduced engagement, reduced attrition, increased burnout, and increased feelings of stress. These consequences can deeply affect both the wellbeing of employees and the success of a business.

Healthy Companies Start with Healthy Leadership

As the head of a company, the CEO is the person that all other employees look to for guidance, support, and inspiration. Imagine a CEO who is overweight, inactive, always stressed, and visibly exhausted. Now, imagine this CEO preaching to their employees about the importance of eating healthy, exercising, managing stress, and prioritising their health. Not very motivating coming from someone who doesn’t walk the talk, is it?

To encourage health and wellbeing in the workplace, the CEO needs to lead by example. Having an active, healthy, physically fit CEO creates a positive ripple effect that trickles down through the entire organisation. By being the change, they wish to see, active CEOs not only motivate employees to take better care of themselves but also permit employees to prioritise their wellbeing.

The positive effect of active CEOs is supported by a survey conducted by the American Heart Association (3). The survey found a strong correlation between employee participation in company health programmes and the CEO’s own engagement in the programme. According to the survey, 93 % of those who knew the CEO participated said they were more committed to their health, compared to 55 % of those who had a CEO that didn’t participate.

Corporate Wellbeing in Action

Typically, company wellbeing initiatives are organised and promoted by the HR department. While these programmes do a world of good, the participation of employees can hinge on the encouragement and participation of the CEO. It’s one thing to get an email about the company wellbeing programme from the HR manager, but it’s a whole other thing to receive direct encouragement from the CEO and see them practice what they preach.

According to an article in Forbes, another impactful way CEOs can encourage their employees to be active is by participating in physical activity with them (4). Take it from David Inns, a CEO based in the U.S. To motivate his employees to be active, Inns takes them surfing two or three times a week, participates in weekly Friday yoga sessions with his team, and organises in-office exercise classes. Exercising with his employees is a way to create what he refers to as a “culture of motivation.” Inns claims that since integrating exercise into his company’s weekly schedule, he’s noticed that his employees have improved energy, productivity, communication, and cross-functional relationships (5). Additionally, by exercising with his employees, Inns feels it makes him more approachable and relatable, which fosters an environment of trust, safety, and happiness.

Sir Richard Branson, a prolific CEO and leader who started hundreds of companies shared his most powerful productivity advice that helps him “achieve twice as much” and “keeps the brain functioning well”. The billionaire entrepreneur simply says “workout” (6).

Lead From the Top with The Help of Kaizen Health

Having a healthy workforce will reduce absenteeism, employee turnover, and medical insurance costs, and improve employee engagement, focus, and productivity—and it all starts with a healthy, active CEO.

Kaizen Health offers workplace events that promote mental and physical wellbeing that are fun, engaging and informative delivering instant health reports, along with tailored plans to improve employees’ physical and mental health. Get in touch today to learn more about our how we can bring the feel-good factor with a wellbeing event to your workplace.


  1. Merrill, R. M., Aldana, S. G., Pope, J. E., Anderson, D. R., Coberley, C. R., Grossmeier, J. J., & Whitmer, R. W. (2013). Self-rated job performance and absenteeism according to employee engagement, health behaviors, and Physical Health. Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine, 55(1), 10–18. https://doi.org/10.1097/jom.0b013e31827b73af
  2. Hollingshead, T. (2019, August 12). Poor employee health means slacking on the job, business losses. News. Retrieved October 28, 2021, from https://news.byu.edu/news/poor-employee-health-means-slacking-job-business-losses.
  3. Mark Athitakis Mark Athitakis is a contributing editor to Associations Now. Email. (n.d.). How CEOS boost employee wellness. ASAE. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://www.asaecenter.org/resources/articles/an_magazine/2017/january-february/how-ceos-boost-employee-wellness.
  4. Evans, L. (2015, August 20). Why great CEOS do yoga with their employees. Fast Company. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://www.fastcompany.com/3049659/why-great-ceos-do-yoga-with-their-employees.
  5. Fouse, D. W. (2015, September 14). Greatcall CEO David Inns’ passion for surfing inspires Corporate Health. Medium. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://medium.com/@DavidwFouse/greatcall-ceo-david-inns-passion-for-surfing-inspires-corporate-health-ee130552a501.
  6. Elkins, K. (2019, June 26). Richard Branson’s top productivity trick is a simple habit that has nothing to do with email or to-do lists. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://www.cnbc.com/2019/06/26/richard-bransons-top-productivity-trick.html.
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